Sunday, May 31, 2015

Help Me Ronda

Thursday morning, San Geraldo, Judyshannonstreetwhat (click here), and I took the train up to the mountain city of Ronda (population about 35,000... not counting tourists). It's less than two hours by train. A beautiful trip to a breathtaking destination. We stayed in the city and walked up and down the winding cobblestone streets all day Thursday and most of Friday.

The Guadelevin River splits the city, whose two sections are connected by three bridges:

  • Puente Viejo (Old Bridge, also known as Arab Bridge, 14th century)
  • Puente San Miguel (Saint Michael Bridge, 9th-century)
  • Puente Nuevo (New Bridge, completed in 1793)


I've got a lot more to share about Ronda in the coming days — where we stayed, where we ate, where we shopped, where we wandered.

If you're interested in the more than 8,000 years of history in Ronda, click here to check out the Wikipedia info. Otherwise, let's go for a walk together. (Click any image to be amazed.)

WALKING ACROSS PUENTE SAN MIGUEL, ALSO KNOWN AS THE ROMAN BRIDGE,
ALTHOUGH IT WAS BUILT BY THE MOORS IN THE 9TH CENTURY.
LOOKING DOWN FROM PUENTE SAN MIGUEL TO THE OLD BRIDGE.
(AND THE 13TH-CENTURY ARAB BATHS)
SAN GERALDO (LEFT) HEADING UP ANOTHER HILL
AFTER CROSSING THE "ROMAN" BRIDGE.
THE MINARET OF SAN SEBASTIAN (14TH CENTURY)
AFTER TOPPING OUT. A LONG WALK DOWN
(AND BACK UP AGAIN AFTER LUNCH).
ESPIRITU SANTO (HOLY SPIRIT CHURCH).
COMPLETED IN 1505.
GATE AND WALLS OF ALMOCABAR:
DURING MOORISH RULE, THE MOST HEAVILY DEFENDED PART OF THE CITY WALL.
RUINS OF THE ALCAZABA, PRE-11TH-CENTURY.


So much more to come from Ronda, but I'll only include this song once...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Overlooked Before

When I was about 6 years old, I was playing in the backyard and found a bed of wild clovers. Given that I knew four-leaf clovers brought good luck, I decided to search for one. To my pleasure, I found it fairly quickly. I wondered, 'Should I wish for something or will my life just be better all the time?'

Before I could decide what to do, the clover slipped out of my hand.  I couldn't find it again among my pile of discards.

I thought to myself, 'Yeah, right. If it's such good luck, why did I lose it?'

Days later, when the neighbour girls found their own four-leaf clover and squealed with delight, I  coolly nodded while thinking to myself, 'Suckers.'

Recently
I was walking on the beach Wednesday and very quickly came upon a bright yellow piece of sea glass. My first yellow sea glass ever. It was beautifully buffed, fan-shaped, with parallel ridges running across one side.

(Click either image for a closer look.)

NOT THE YELLOW SEA GLASS. BUT THIS ONE GLOWED YELLOW IN THE SUN.
A REMNANT OF SAFETY GLASS WITH REINFORCING WIRE INSIDE.
ALSO A GOLDEN BROWN AND NOT THE YELLOW PIECE I FOUND.
THIS ONE LOOKS LIKE A SAND DOLLAR.

I've been having some brain chemistry problems recently. Nothing unusual. Just the way my depression works.

As I happily held my glowing treasure, I thought, 'Maybe this is a good sign.'

I then immediately said to myself, 'Don't be ridiculous. There's no such thing as a good sign! Just be pleased to have found it!'

I continued collecting for a while. I decided to put all the glass except the yellow piece into a pocket of my leather fanny pack/bum bag (that's a story for another day). I continued walking and pulled my camera from another pocket so I could snap a picture of my treasure.

I then realised the yellow glass was no longer in my hand. I searched my bag. It wasn't among the other pieces, nor was it in any other pocket. I back-tracked, walking the same stretch of beach three times. I never did find it.

I thought to myself, 'I'm so glad I didn't believe in it like I believed in that four-leaf clover.'

I continued walking and collecting until I stumbled upon our wonderful friend Elena. She was enjoying the sun while waiting for her kids to finish volley ball practice. So, Wednesday, I found a treasure on the beach after all. An even better treasure.


And now, let's all sing along with Mitch...

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dedicated Follower Of Fashion

As seen on the streets and in the parks of Fuengirola, Málaga, and Marbella.

(Click any image to increase the loudness.)





Eagerly pursuing all the latest fads and trends...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sooner Or Later

There's a new business next door to Fuengirola's zoo (Bioparc). It's a center for fitness, beauty, and health. I don't know the source of the name. It's anything but subtle (although, I assume, it's unintentional).


AT LEAST WITH SPANISH PRONUNCIATION, IT'S PRONOUNCED "DEE."

Only the good...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Finding Medusa

This is early in the season for jellyfish — commonly known here as "medusa." They usually arrive every year when the waters are much warmer. With May's July-like weather or climate change or over-fishing (or all of the above), we may see more this summer.

Unfortunately, Elena spotted some on the beach one morning last week. I walked the beach a while later and found none. The first three shots below are what Elena saw.

Note: Many thanks to Wilma of the blog South English Town Gazette for pointing out that these first three photos are of a Portuguese Man of War. I'm really glad I wasn't on the beach that day! Click here for the painful truth about these siphonophores.

(Click any image to 'jellify.')





Another Day
I went across the street to relax on the beach for a couple of hours Saturday afternoon. It was a perfect day for the beach, but there were surprisingly few people. And there was no one swimming. I noticed a father and son playing close to shore with a football (soccer ball). Whenever the son would let it go into the water, the father would scold and point and wait for the surf to bring it back in. That's when I noticed a jellyfish that had been washed ashore. I let my eyes wander and realised the surf was teeming with them. I was seeing my first "bloom" or "swarm" of medusas.



A group of boys were playing ball and spotted the jellyfish in the surf. One washed up at their suddenly scrambling feet. It was a different type from what I had already seen, and slightly smaller.

After inspecting the jellyfish, one boy scooped it up along with the wet sand and held it up for me. He said it wasn't a "medusa"; it was an "aguaviva." When I later looked up the word, I found that aguaviva was, like Medusa, just another generic name for jellyfish here.

The different so-called "jellyfish" we see aren't even all jellyfish in the first place (for example, the Portuguese Man of War), and what we call jellyfish aren't actually fish anyway. And if you want to learn more about that, you'll have to look it up. I never studied marine biology (although I did grow up near the New York Aquarium.)

AGUAVIVA?
HE SAID, "THESE DON'T STING, THEY JUST LEAVE A RED MARK."
(THAT DIDN'T KEEP HIM FROM RUNNING WHEN THEY GOT TOO CLOSE.)
I DISTORTED THE CONTRAST SO YOU CAN SEE THE SWARM.
CALMY WAITING TO CATCH A JELLYFISH IN A T-SHIRT.
(THE BOY AT RIGHT HAS THE T-SHIRT.  THEY WEREN'T TRYING
TO CATCH A JELLYFISH THAT WAS WEARING ONE.)
THE HUNTERS BECOME THE HUNTED...

Los Boliches medusa hunters in action.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Teatro Romano Gets A Thumbs Up

Judy and I spent the afternoon (and well into the evening Thursday) in Málaga. Mostly, we explored the Teatro Romano, the Roman amphitheatre built in the 1st century and re-discovered in 1951 during the building of a Franco-Era cultural centre. Once discovered, an archaeological dig began, but Franco's cultural centre was completed anyway. The Teatro Romana was again used for performances.

In the 1980s, it was decided that the cultural centre was impacting the survival of the theatre (and covering over about half of it) and it was torn down as a symbol of the break with the dictatorship ended less than 10 years earlier. Restoration continued and it was learned that in the 3rd century, after the fall of the Roman empire, the area became a fish-salting plant and then a necropolis. Many of the capitols and columns were used in the construction of the Arab Alcazaba fortress (click here) that was built in the 11th century on the hill overlooking the area.

Whew. That was more history than I intended to share and probably more history than you intended to read. The site is phenomenal. The display in the nearby small information centre was excellent. And it's all free! (Click any image to rebuild the Roman Empire.)

JUDY WANTED ME TO PHOTOSHOP TOGAS ONTO THE TOURISTS.
WHAT JUDY THOUGHT OF MY DECISION TO NOT PUT TOGAS ON TOURISTS.
THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS.
SEATS, ORCHESTRA PIT, STAGE.
LOOKING FROM STAGE LEFT UP TO THE LOWER WALLS OF THE ALCAZABA.
THE SURVIVING BARREL-VAULTED ENTRANCE TO THE ORCHESTRA.
(THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN AN IDENTICAL ONE OPPOSITE.)




Arrivederci, Roma (my gift to The Dowager Duchess — Mario Lanza)...

Friday, May 22, 2015

I'm Built For Speed

I am never one to complain about Spain. I love living here in my adopted home. I have felt welcome wherever I go and I've been  treated warmly and kindly. If I can generalise, the people I've met in my nearly four years here are some of the most wonderful people I've ever met. I love the culture, the history, the beauty, the food. I could go on and on.

"BON-BONS FOR THE BEST!"
I won't even really complain much about the bureaucracy. As far as I'm concerned, bureaucracy is no different here than anywhere I've lived in the States. In most cases, I've actually found it much easier to navigate.

Until, that is, we looked into obtaining Spanish driver's licenses.

After six months of legal residency, we were required to obtain Spanish driver's licenses. Since we don't have a car and have no intention of buying one, it hasn't been a major pressure. But whenever we rent a car, we're breaking the law if we drive with our US licenses. And San Geraldo is not one to ever break the law. (I, on the other hand, am a rehabilitated former New Yorker.) 

I won't theorise here about why this process has gone so wrong — although San Geraldo and I have privately theorised plenty. Instead, I'll just share a little bit of what San Geraldo has gone through.

Some Highlights
  • Spain's Driving Code is 302 pages (just the code). Only officials are privy to the contents.
  • Spain has 16 classes/types of driver's licenses. By comparison, California has five.
  • There are two English versions of standard driving manuals to prepare one for the teórico (written exam). They are badly written, badly translated, badly edited, and inconsistent. 
  • You are required to use an official driving school (Auto Escuela).
  • If you would like to take practice teóricos, you must purchase 3-months' access online from a private service or you can use the practice tests assembled by your driving school, which are compiled from conversations with students after they take their tests and, therefore, based on the memories of student drivers.
  • If you fail the written test, you are not told what you got wrong.
  • The cost of the Auto Escuela and other fees run to more than 1,000 euros.
  • There is no "learner's permit"; you can only drive with your Auto Escuela instructor on one of the school's dual-control cars (and pay per lesson). 
  • If you take the test on a car with an automatic transmission (most Auto Escuelas don't even have these), you are only licensed to drive a car with automatic transmission. You must be tested on a manual transmission to have a license that allows you to drive both.


The Nutshell
About 9 months ago, San Geraldo took a required medical exam; he then enrolled in an American-speaking driving school in Fuengirola; "fired" that driving school; joined an English-speaking driving school in Fuengirola; passed the written exam; took one driving "lesson"; fired that driving school; joined a Spanish-speaking driving school in Fuengirola— a very pleasant driving school this time but he needed a bi-lingual instructor; so he took a breather.

Less than two weeks ago, he joined a driving school in Marbella; he loved the instructor; he took about six practice drives; and Tuesday he took the test.

He passed!!!

To celebrate San Geraldo's success, Kristina gave him a driving-themed tin of chocolate bombones (bon-bons). She also gave him a bottle of chocolate sauce in which to dip the bombones. He said he would simply dump everything into a bowl and eat it with a spoon. (Click either image to increase the sweetness.)

I couldn't stomach the idea of going through any of this (including eating bombones and chocolate sauce with a spoon), so I'll just hitch rides with San Geraldo.

Simply Speed Limits
THERE'LL BE A QUIZ MONDAY.
(SO CLICK TO ENLARGE.)

Built For Comfort

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Marbella, A World Of Colour

Monday afternoon, while San Geraldo did his last practice drive around Marbella before his exam for his Spanish drivers license, Judy and I strolled the streets of Marbella's Old Town and absorbed the colors.

San Geraldo passed the exam Tuesday! So, I will soon share the saga of the Spanish drivers license.

(Click any image to magnify.)







Just as I was about to snap this next photo, a woman came out of a shop and crossed in front of me. She stopped and apologized. I told her, it was nothing — that she only made the photo more beautiful. She laughed and blushed, and then told me that was because the bougainvillea was "mi hija" (her daughter). The buildings pictured are hers and she planted the bougainvillea a mere 15 years ago. From far left and all the way to the roof, this is one single plant.







Meanwhile, thanks to San Geraldo for enduring it all and for colouring my world...